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USATF Nationals under way(Jun 25th 2014, 7:17pm)



Day 1 in Sacto

Published by
Armory Track News   Jun 27th 2014, 3:26pm

Story By Jack Pfeifer and Dave Hunter
Photo By Kim Spir

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Galen Rupp and Kim Conley won the national 10,000-meter championships here on Thursday night, but most people went home talking about an 800-meter who ran 2:32 and finished last.

Rupp won the men’s USATF 10k title for a record sixth straight year, while Conley, a local hero – she’s from nearby Davis – won the first U.S. championship of her life, outkicking Jordan Hasay to win the women’s race.

But much earlier in the evening, in the women’s 800 preliminary round, Alysia Montano, the defending champion in the event, ran Heat III while she was very obviously pregnant. For the 28-year-old Montano it was her first race since last August. Even though it was widely known that she is weeks from delivering her first child – she is 34 weeks’ pregnant -- Montano had entered the Nationals and, it turned out, had every intention of running.

“I didn’t want to be the first person ever to get lapped in the 800,” Montano said jokingly. “More than anything, I wanted to be here. I was feeling that fire and that desire to be back on the track and to race.

“I have a qualifying time (from 2013) and I am the defending champion, and I feel like I deserve to be here.”

Nevertheless, it wasn’t a simple decision. “I had a lot of questions about how I could go about this,” said Montano, whose 800 PR is 1:57.34. “My midwife and doctor were so encouraging. I knew this was something I could do. … (Their support) took away any fear of what the outside world might think about a woman running, pregnancy, and exercise in general. I learned that maintaining exercise during pregnancy is much better for the mom and the baby.

“I didn’t want any ill things said about me. I didn’t want to be judged. I wanted to do what my heart and my desire wanted to do…. I viewed it as a celebration.”

One of her rivals in the 800, Ajee Wilson, watched in awe. “It was just incredible,” the 20-year-old Wilson said. “Running the 800 in general is hard. But with an extra person attached to you is just crazy. She is just amazing and strong to be able to do that.”

The Juniors multi-events were contested here over the past two days, selecting the U.S. team for next month’s World Junior Championships. The first two finishers, so long as they have met the entry standard, comprise the national team.

The men’s competition, using Juniors implements and hurdles, was won by Harrison Williams, a senior from University HS of Memphis, Tenn., who scored 7,734 points, not far from the national high school record of 7,748. The other team qualifier was the runnerup, Gabriel Moore, a senior at Freeport, Fla., HS, 7,594, just ahead of Mitch Modin, an Oregon freshman, 3rd with 7,516. Williams has been signed by Stanford, Moore by Arkansas.

The women’s heptathlon was won by Ashlee Moore, a senior at Chandler H.S. in Arizona, who won with 5,418 points, 55 points ahead of Shaina Burns, from Lakeville, Minn. Moore is bound for the University of Oregon, Burns for Texas A&M. The American Junior recordholder in the hep, Kendell Williams of Georgia, who has scored 6,018, did not compete here. It is believed that she intends to focus on the 100 hurdles at the remainder of the U.S. Juniors meet, to be held next weekend in Eugene, Ore.

“To make the team was the biggest dream for me,” the 5-11, 175-pound Burns said. “Down the final straightaway I kept saying to myself, ‘USA USA’. It’s a surreal experience.” In high school Burns competed in tennis, basketball and track and field. At the Minnesota state meet she won the 100 hurdles and shot put and placed 3rd in the 300 hurdles and the 4x4. “At home,” she said, “they call me the Lakeville Swiss army knife, because I can do everything.”

There was plenty of first-round action on the track –

Men’s 800 – Four current or recent members of Frank Gagliano’s New Jersey/New York Track Club advanced to the semifinals – Michael Rutt, 2nd in Heat I in 1:47.34; Brian Gagnon, 3rd in III in 1:48.10, and Robby Andrews and Ben Scheetz, 1-2 in Heat IV in 1:49.78 and 1:49.91. The Connecticut native Cas Loxsom, a Penn State grad, advanced out of Heat II. In that same race, Binghamton’s Jesse Garn was eliminated, finishing 6th in 1:50.80.

“Last year was extremely disappointing,” Andrews said. “I ran 1:52 to get last. I want to come back with a vengeance.”

Women’s 800 – The NJ/NYTC was in play in this event as well, as the club member LaTavia Thomas won Heat III (2:02.39). Those failing to move on to the semifinals included Sabrina Southerland (2:07.48), the Georgetown freshman from New York City; Stephanie Herrick (2:06.54), of the Central Park Track Club; Jesse Carlin (2:05.99), the Penn grad from Staten Island, and Caroline King (2:07.27) and Cydney Ross (2:05.29) of the NJ/NYTC. Among those advancing was Chanelle Price, running for Nike, 2nd in Heat I in 2:01.97, and New Jersey’s Ajee Wilson, who won her heat in 2:03.35.

“I just wanted to stay as smooth as possible,” Price said. “We were battling the wind coming in, so I was just trying to keep my form and finish strong.”

Wilson said, “My coach said if I got out good, just stick with it and run to how I felt. So that is what I did.”

Women’s 400 – Once Kendall Baisden false-started in Heat II and her Texas teammate Ashley Spencer failed to appear in Heat III, the field was reduced to 16, meaning every runner advanced to the semis. Since that was not known until the end, everyone ran hard, including the recent Oregon graduate Phyllis Francis, who had the 2nd-fastest time overall, 51.25 for 2nd to Jessica Beard in Heat I. Fellow New Yorker Natasha Hastings won Heat II in 51.48, just ahead of New Jersey native Michelle Brown, a recent Notre Dame graduate, 3rd in 52.69. In Heat III, two of the stars of American quartermiling today, Francena McCorory and Sanya Richards-Ross, went 1-2, 51.64 and 52.39.

Francis, whose college season ended 10 days ago with the NCAA Championships, said, “I definitely feel it right now. It has been a long season… I’m just tired.”

Richards-Ross has been on the comeback trail. “My race went well today,” she said. “It felt really good through the first 250 or 300, which is what my coach wanted me to do. And then I was able to really back off the last 100.

“I definitely feel better than I felt last year,” she said. “After last season – missing the year – I just realized I still love it. I would love to win the Olympics one more time and be remembered as one of the greatest 400-meter runners in history.”

Men’s 400 – The New Yorker Brycen Spratling, recent Pitt grad, moved on by finishing 3rd in Heat I, in 46.04, as did the New Jerseyan Najee Glass, Florida soph, 45.53 for 3rd in Heat II. Another Garden Stater, Clayton Parros, missed advancing by .04, running 46.26 in Heat I.

“My race was good today,” Glass said. “I just got out…. I feel good. We didn’t have to come here, but I decided to come here because I want to see what I can do.”

Spratling said, “It was a smooth race. Instead of pressing at the end, I just shut it down a lot. I live to fight another day…. I feel great. I ran a lot of races this year, but I’m finally starting to peak for this year.”

Men’s 1,500 – The Columbia graduate Liam Boylan-Pett advanced to the final as a time qualifier, finishing 5th in Heat II in 3:42.85. A fellow Lion, Kyle Merber, was 5th in Heat I, but his time of 3:45.26 missed qualifying. Ford Palmer, a Monmouth graduate in his first year with the NJ/NYTC, did advance in that heat, finishing 3rd, in 3:44.73. The New Yorker Chad Noelle, a student at Oklahoma State, was the fastest non-qualifier, 9th in Heat II in 3:44.27.

“Nobody saw me coming,” Palmer said. “And that’s fine. Now they’re going to see me coming Saturday. … I’m just doing what I’ve been doing all year – staying relaxed, staying calm, kicking the last 200. … I just ran my race, that’s it. … I joined this track club with a 3:44.9 and now come in with a 3:38.5… It will be fun to see what happens Saturday.”

Merber, who missed out, said, “I got in the slower race, which is unfortunate. It was a crapshoot the last 200 and I came up a hair short. I closed really well, but the last 100 just got crowded and I just ran out of space.” Of his clubmate and training partner Palmer, Merber said, “Nobody knows about Ford Palmer, but I think now they’re going to now.”

Women’s 100 – The New Jerseyan English Gardner, defending her championship, had the fastest time of the day, running 11.30 to win Heat IV. All of the races were run into a headwind. The other heat winners were Bianca Knight, Tianna Bartoletta and Alex Anderson. Among those not advancing were the Montclair (N.J.) veteran Miki Barber (11.65) and the New Yorker Ahtyana Johnson (11.96).

Men’s 100 – Mike Rodgers had the fastest time of the day, 10.11, to win Heat IV. The other three heats, run into a headwind, were won by DionDre Batson, Harry Adams and Charles Silmon. Justin Gatlin, the fastest American in the event this season, is not in the meet.

Women’s steeplechase – Ashley Higginson, the Princeton graduate who runs for Saucony and the NJ/NYTC, led much of the way in Heat II and wound up 2nd in 9:40.26, exactly one second behind the Coloradan Emma Coburn, qualifying for the final.

Five finals were contested –

Men’s hammer – Kibwe Johnson, throwing for the New York AC, won the competition, throwing 243-4. Ryan Loughney, of the Shore AC, finished 8th, throwing 227-0, while Chuk Enekwechi, the Purdue sophomore from Queens, was close to a lifetime best, throwing 222-7 to finish 10th. Jake Freeman, the Manhattan College graduate and a past US champion, failed to record a fair throw.

Women’s triple jump – Amanda Smock, also competing for the New York AC, won her sixth national title, jumping 45-2 1/4, 8 inches ahead of Ciarra Brewer of the University of Florida.

Women’s javelin – In a spirited competition, Brittany Borman, yet another NYAC competitor, threw a lifetime best, 203-7, but was beaten by Kara Patterson, who threw 204-10, the first time two American women have thrown more than 200 feet in the same competition.

10,000 – Rupp won his 6th national men’s 10k title in a row, a record, running 28:12 to defeat Chris Derrick by 6 seconds. In the women’s race, Conley and Hasay battled it out on the final lap. Hasay went to the lead with 200 to go but Conley passed her back in the home straight to win by a second in 32:02.

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